A friend and I went to German Village’s High Beck Corner Tavern where southern Ohio brewery Portsmouth Brewing Co. was holding a tasting. They sent two friendly assistant brewers to serve beer and answer questions. The event itself was nice and cheap, with tastes for a quarter and pints for a dollar.
Red Bird Ale
A California common (or steam beer) coming in at just 3.5% ABV. It’s transparent, copper-hued, and has a light scent of sweet malt and noble hops. There is a light malt sweetness and a clean finish, but very little flavor overall. Predictably from the low ABV, it has a relatively thin mouthfeel, light body, accompanied by smooth, light carbonation. There’s certainly nothing objectionable here, but the beer doesn’t have a lot going for it either.
At 5.5% ABV, was my favorite of the trio. It has a pale straw color and a light smell akin to sweet corn – the hop aroma was very faint. It tastes mostly of sweet malt, but there is also a hint of noble hops, imparting slight bitterness at the end. The finish is clean with a mineral taste, likely due the water used by the brewers. It features a light body and medium carbonation. Overall, this felt more like an exceptionally good Miller Lite than an average pilsner due to its thin, watery nature.
Excelsior Dark Lager
4% ABV and black in color, though if you hold it up to the light it’s fairly translucent (this is a neat trick for gauging the body of your stouts and porters). There is a pleasant but quite faint coffee aroma. Although nearly as light in flavor as the other two, the typical chocolate-coffee flavor does make its way through and the beer ends with a dry, chocolatey finish. This beer isn’t as thin and watery as the other two, and for that reason it was my friend’s favorite.
Even though they’re far from my favorite brews, I think Portsmouth Brewing’s beers have their place. The Pils, in particular, would be great to introduce your BMC(Bud/Miller/Coors)-drinking friends to craft beer. Excelsior might make a similarly good introduction for those who find Guiness Draught to be a ‘heavy’ beer.
Portsmouth Pilsner is available in Central Ohio at these carryouts: Andy’s Carryout, McClaskie’s Drive-Thru, Honeybee Drive-Thru & Carryout State Liquor, Europia State Liquor and Barley Hopster’s. Columbus area bars serving Portsmouth Pilsner include Double D’s Pub, the Blue Danube, Pizza Rustica, Clancey’s Pub, Opa and Amato’s. World of Beer serves the Pilsner as well as Red Bird Ale.